San Francisco is not likely to change its ill-conceived sanctuary-city policy because City Hall must bow to progressives who don't believe in deporting undocumented immigrants with serious criminal records. Activists such as Angela Chan of the Asian Law Caucus believe that Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi was right to release Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez rather than turn him over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as requested. They don't care that Lopez-Sanchez had been convicted of seven felonies and deported five times before he was arrested for the July 1 shooting death of Kathryn Steinle.
Lopez-Sanchez has pleaded not guilty to murder. Already, city pols are treating Steinle's death as an anomaly. Supervisor Malia Cohen told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I'm not going to let one extremely unfortunate situation frame the policy."
It wasn't always so. In 2010, when he was California's attorney general, now-Gov. Jerry Brown opposed the sanctuary-city policy and supported the federal Secure Communities program, which automatically passed on the fingerprints of new arrestees to ICE. The idea was to deport criminal aliens. Advocates called for an end to the program. Brown, however, reasoned that it eliminated the possibility of racial profiling: "Using fingerprints is faster, race-neutral and results in accurate information and identification."
By 2013, Brown had signed the California TRUST Act, which prevents local law enforcement from honoring ICE detainers except in cases of serious or violent felonies. Brown had vetoed earlier legislation with no exception for convicted felons; he actually had to fight for that provision before he caved to the Legislature. Good for Brown, but why would any lawmaker want to shield immigrants who keep breaking criminal laws even though they should be on their best behavior because they are here illegally and should be afraid of being kicked out of this country?
San Francisco's Due Process for All ordinance, approved unanimously in 2013, is even more porous. It directs local law enforcement to comply with ICE detainers only if an individual has committed a violent felony in the past seven years. By that sorry standard, the sheriff followed city law in not complying with the federal detainer.
The Chronicle's Emily Green reports that not one single San Francisco supervisor wants to change the 2013 law. Jesse Watters of Fox News confronted supervisors about the policy on camera. Supervisor Jane Kim said the real issue is "gun control," as no one with Lopez-Sanchez's criminal record should have access to a gun. (It turns out the gun was stolen from a federal agent's car, so I don't see how gun control applies.) Supervisor Katy Tang used two F-words, one an expletive and the other "Fox News." Supervisor Scott Wiener chanted, "Fox News is not real news." Then he ducked into his office. A woman is dead, and these swells only see Fox News.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee faults his nemesis, the sheriff -- whom Lee tried to fire after Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to a count of domestic violence -- for releasing Lopez-Sanchez. Lee is right to assert that Mirkarimi could have -- should have -- made a phone call to ICE. Lee is right to fault Mirkarimi for instructing deputies in March to limit communication with ICE absent a warrant or court order. But Lee was wrong to tell the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, "Our sanctuary policy was never intended to create a safe haven for criminals who tear our communities apart."
That's exactly what the 2013 ordinance was intended to do -- to create a safe haven for criminals, except for recently violent felons, against deportation. The truly unintended part was that some San Franciscans might object. Now the truth is out. City Hall is more invested in protecting undocumented immigrants convicted of nonviolent felonies than shielding the general law-abiding public from repeat criminals.